Sun on Saturday: A cycle to Lesnes Abbey and beyond

Last Sunday we joined our first Skyride and met up with the rest of the group in Manor House Gardens. That's just ten minutes or so from us by bike and despite this it was a park we'd never been in before. 

At one end, near the cafe and meeting point was Manor House with a beautifully blue sky behind it. The gardens - which I failed to take a picture of - reminded me of a country park. The grass was fenced off with metal railings and for me that gave it a Victorian feel.


We set off en masse - there was about fifteen of us and the three ride leaders - and headed for the South Circular. Eek! Actually we only crossed over the A205 so that was ok, but we took some back roads towards the A20, which we did cycle along for a short section. Those poor motorists!

As is usual with South London there were a few hills, both up and down as we weaved our way towards Abbey Wood and Lesnes Abbey. Which you'll not be surprised to know is yet another local place I'd not been to before so I was keen to see what was there.


Yeap, ruins.

The Abbey was founded in 1178 by Richard de Luci the Chief Justiciar to Henry II. And in the short time I was there I learnt that it had an interesting history. It is thought that the Abbey was founded as an act of penance by de Luci who was closely implicated in the murder of Thomas Beckett at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. When in 1179 the first Abbot was consecrated, Richard de Luci resigned his office as the Chief Justiciar to become a canon of Lesnes.

It was the sort of place that made it easy to look around, with metal signs in each part of the ruins. I didn't have long there and I'd like more time to look around the ruins, and the surrounding woods.

I was captivated by this archway and what lay behind it. Just to the right of here was a larger, more open space and when I learnt that this area was the church, that made sense.

The Abbey closed around 1525 by Henry VIIIs chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, and most of its monastic buildings were pulled down soon after the dissolution. The site was later acquired by Henry Cooke who kept the Abbot's Lodging as a mansion house; later though it came into the possession of Sir John Hippersley (what a great surname!) who dug it over for building materials! The Abbots Lodging though survived intact until it was demolished in 1845.

That's what amazes me about history. A piece of unassuming land in, let's say an often less favourable part of South East London could hold so many secrets. 

There's more building work about to start too, with a new Visitor Centre. The ground had been prepared but building hadn't obviously started yet. Looking at the plans for the news Lesnes Lodge, it'll be a great addition to the site when it opens. I'm not sure when that will be as it seems it is behind the published timetable.

So this is yet another place we'll come back to - and one that's easily within cycling distance - on our next visit I hope to have a better look around, explore what looks to be the gardens in the picture above, find out where I can dig a fossil and check out the wildflower gardens.

Back on the bikes we headed through the maze of Thamesmead and eventually onto the the Thames Path, which is familiar cycling territory for MOH and I. We cycled back up to the Woolwich Ferry and then the ride leaders led us up to Charlton via what can only be described as the steepest hill I've seen so far in this part of town.  Needless to say part of that hill involved some walking and wheeling, even MOH found it hard going.

After clocking up nearly 37km we left the ride in Blackheath and made a dash into the Farmers Market to pick up something for lunch.  It was a lovely day - if not a tad warm - for a cycle and once again we've discovered some local places to visit again and explore further.


My Travel Monkey